This was my second year in a row racing at Ironman Louisville. I really enjoy this race venue for a number of reasons. First, Louisville is located within driving distance from my home in Toronto, so I am able to bring my support crew – Al and my 2 dogs, which makes a huge difference to me. I also really like Louisville as a city – it’s a young trendy city, with lots of see and do for a smaller city. There is always some good music to be heard in the squares around town during lunch hour, which gives the city a great vibe. Although Louisville is not THAT far South, it still exhibits that “southern hospitality” that southern Americans are famous for – making you feel welcome and safe in the city. Besides the city of Louisville, the outskirts of the city are very beautiful, and I love that you get to see so much of the Kentucky countryside on this Ironman bike ride. Louisville is a place I never would have gone if it wasn’t for this Ironman – but now that I have been here, I recommend it as a place to visit :-).
The days leading up to this Ironman were relatively stress free for me. I felt more relaxed than I did in Germany, which was a great change! I had three of my coached athletes there as well, two of whom were doing there second Ironman and one who was doing his first. It was great to be able to see them and help them out in getting organized and confident leading up to race day.
On race morning, I headed to transition around 5:30a.m. Even though I felt less stressed than usual, I still made sure to check my bike out about 20 times before I was satisfied that the brakes were not rubbing, the tires were pumped up enough, and everything in my transition bags was perfect and ready for me. Enough already, eh? Once I was satisfied that all was good, I headed out for the approximately 1 mile walk over to the swim start. It was great to feel the energy of the other athletes out there and hear the chatter around me about what people were thinking and feeling about the day ahead. When we go to the swim start, I was able to walk right down to the river with the other pro’s and avoid the line up of age group athletes, which I am thankful for! We waited patiently on the steps on the edge of the river until 6:40am when we were allowed to jump in the river and do a short warm up swim. I was quiet and simply watched the interaction between athletes, and thought about the day ahead and how I wanted it to go. Still less nervous than usual by this time, but certainly with a little more adrenalin building up inside! At 6:40am we jumped in the water. This is when I learned my NEXT lesson of Ironman racing in 2011.. I put my goggles on, and could not see anything. I learned that it is still dark at 6:40 in the morning in Louisville in August, and I cannot see with dark tinted swim goggles!! I panicked for a few minutes, then tried to make the best of it – put the goggles up, looked ahead at the swim buoys without the goggles, and decided to just head out in straight line towards the buoys and hope the sun came up before the first turn! Even more motivation to stay close to other swimmers, too, so I could follow their feet. 🙂 When the horn blew at 6:50am, I headed out, and quickly our group of pro’s were broken up into 2 groups. The faster group broke ahead and the second group of us (where I was swimming) continued a little bit behind this group. Overall, I was happy with my swim, I stayed relaxed, remembered the efforts that I was maintaining this past couple of months in the pool, and ended up swimming a strong swim for me and feeling good and satisfied at the end of it. Through T1 and onto the bike.. I love this bike ride, with it’s rolling hills and beautiful countryside. But, I had forgotten how challenging it was. The first part of the course is flat and fast, giving your body time to warm up. Then, into a two loop section of challenging rolling hills. Today we had a noticeable amount of headwind as well, which created an added challenge. I had some challenging mental moments today on this bike course. I was not able to produce as much power on the bike as planned and as I know I am capable of doing, but I pushed through as best I could, talking myself through some tough times, and got to the end of the bike course feeling a little less than refreshed! Into T2.. with a contact lens in my mouth because one of mine “fell out” of my right eye on the final stretch of the bike ride. I got into the change tent, put in that contact lens (note to all you contact lens wearers, it’s a good idea to keep an extra disposable set in your bento box or in your transition bag, because you never know!), put on my running gear, and headed out of transition. I felt great heading out onto the run.. better than I ever have in an ironman race. I guess pushing less power on the bike really does leave your legs with a little more “bounce” for the run! I headed out at 7:15-7:20/mile pace, which is a pretty fast clip for me at this point in my ironman career.. and I felt great so I thought I’d try and keep it up for as long as I could, and then just try and “hold on” for the rest of the race as best I could. So, I held on for the first 6.5 miles, then just slowed a little bit from there. I passed two other pro women just past the half way point on the run and that helped with confidence and motivation to keep going strong. At that point I was TIRED and was slowing to near an 8 minute/mile pace. I made sure to take my salt and gels as scheduled and took as much fluid as possible at each aid station, enjoying that coke! By the 20 mile mark, my legs were not happy, and I was holding on. I could see a couple more women just a minute or two ahead of me, and the crowd let me know they were there, but on that day I was not able to find any extra speed to catch them. Overall, though, I ran a personal best Ironman marathon and I am happy! I crossed the finish line at 10:04, and as the 6th place pro woman. I am happy with my race this year in Louisville and look forward to coming back here for the next one!
My three athletes, Tracey, Dave and Eric, also had amazing races and Congrats to them!! Tracey was oh so close to qualifying for Kona in her age group (she’ll get it next year!!), Dave fought through some severe stomach cramps and even with a 30 minute stop in transition was close to his personal best time, and Eric did a smoking fast 10:43 first Ironman!!